World Stamps

Shake up in store for British definitive and Christmas stamps

Feb 4, 2022, 10 AM
On Feb. 1, Great Britain’s Royal Mail issued four Queen Elizabeth II definitive stamps with attached bar codes. Starting in 2023, Britain’s definitive and Christmas stamps without bar codes will not be valid for postage.

Philatelic Foreword by Jay Bigalke

Somewhat, and likely deliberately, hidden in a Feb. 1 Royal Mail press release that seemingly was just announcing yet another variety of a Machin head stamp was something that could have a profound impact on the aftermarket of some of Great Britain’s stamps.

Page 46 of this issue of Linn’s carries a story about Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth II definitive stamps with integrated bar codes. These stamps were issued Feb. 1.

The new stamps have their strengths in security features and will help slow the impact of counterfeit stamps flooding the British market. So that is a positive.

The news release and unfortunately what the general press picked up on was the gimmicky angle of a video of a sheep.

That distraction helped gloss over the part that will impact stamp collectors. Whether that will be positive or negative remains to be seen, but it will have an impact.

Starting on Jan. 31, 2023, anyone who has an older Great Britain definitive stamp or Christmas stamp without a bar code, will not be able to use it as valid postage on mail.

I believe that this will not impact Britain’s commemorative stamp program, which likely will continue to have stamps produced without bar codes attached.

So thus begins the great “Swap Out” plan Royal Mail is putting forward where stamps without bar codes can be exchanged.

I won’t speculate on what rules and guidelines Royal Mail will put forth, but my guess is this will only impact only nondenominated stamps (Royal Mail calls them no-value indicator stamps) for the first-class rate and others.

We will continue to watch closely to see what Royal Mail does on this front, and I’m sure other postal administrations will be paying close attention, too.

I am struggling at the moment to comprehend what the impact could be for older stamps. Could there be a market value fall out? Will a bunch of recent issues be traded in, thus making some definitives scarce and sought after?

We are interested in hearing your thoughts. Feel free to send in comments to or write to Linn’s, Box 4129, Sidney, OH 45365.

We will likely use some of the letters in the Letters to Linn’s column in a future weekly issue of Linn’s.

Connect with Linn’s Stamp News: 

    Sign up for our newsletter
    Like us on Facebook
    Follow us on Twitter